Norway trip planning and the high cost of food

In about 45 days I will be arriving in Oslo, Norway on United flight UA38. My arrival and my flight departure from Oslo 13 days after arrival are the only confirmed portions of my two week trip.

Time to start Norway trip planning and put in place some Choice Privileges and Club Carlson hotel nights in Norway, the world’s most expensive country or at least in the top three. Nearly all my hotel nights will be on points.

My question though is do I really want to spend two weeks in Norway?

For me it is a question of trip expense to live 13 days in Norway.

This post was originally meant to be about low cost flights on Air Baltic, Wizz, RyanAir and Norwegian Air from Oslo to other airports around Europe. That will be a post to come. I got distracted thinking about the price of food in Norway.

Sticking to a $100 per day travel budget in Norway

Just as I have a basic rule of thumb to try and keep my hotel expenses down to an average of $100 per night when traveling throughout the year, I also like to keep my travel expenses for everything else at $100 or less per day when traveling. I want to keep my total travel expenses under $1,500 for this 15-day trip to Norway, not including the $541 I spent for the SFO-OSL economy class ticket back in March.

Sure I could splurge for a trip around Norway. As a frequent traveler, I keep in mind that every dollar I spend on this trip is a dollar less I will have available for the expenses of the next trip. I am planning to be in Greece on another Europe trip in October.

Mommy Points spent a day in Oslo earlier this year and spent $125 on dinner for two persons. At that rate, eating one meal out for 13 days would set me back about $800, leaving only $500 for everything else. With breakfast included at most hotels, my food budget would probably be about $1,000 for one person, assuming I ate grocery store food between the hotel breakfast and restaurant meals.

I was in Oslo last year. I photographed restaurant menus as I walked around the city. I saw the price for a Big Mac on a menu outside of a McDonald’s at $20 USD. Yesterday in Monterey, California I saw a sign outside of McDonald’s advertising two Big Macs for $5.00 USD. Fortunately, I don’t eat Big Macs. I do like McDonald’s $1 any size drinks when I am on road trips.

In downtown Oslo, the Tex-Mexican Lounge restaurant I passed charged 196 NOK for a beef burrito. $31.67 USD for a burrito. A vegetarian burrito was only $27.15.

Carlson’s TGI Fridays in Oslo charged $10 for a beer and nearly $20 for a cocktail. Blackened Cajun Chicken Sandwich at TGI Friday’s was 162 NOK ($26 USD) and one of the lowest priced food items on the menu. A martini (112 NOK) or mojito (118 NOK) will set you back $18 to $19 per drink.

The Price of Beer in Norway

I like beer. I specifically like to taste domestic beers of whatever country I am in. I don’t like to pay more than $1.00 for a bottle of beer. That has been my rule of thumb for 30 years. I ended up spending a couple hours in the airport lounge at Oslo drinking beer for free as I waited for my flight to Helsinki. That was my only taste of Norwegian beer.

Frydenlund Pilsner is a Norwegian beer. The supermarket price was 29.70 NOK ($4.80 USD) per can. Tuborg (Danish beer) was the lowest priced beer I saw in glass at 15.70 NOK per bottle or $2.54 USD. Carlsberg and Pilsner Urquell were around 28.20 NOK or $4.56 USD. The supermarket where I saw these prices did not have any discount for buying a six-pack.


For a traveler on a budget, Norway is definitely a grocery store food supplies necessity.

Norway Cost of Food

What about supermarket food in Norway?

A can of Del Monte lentils is a good nutritious staple food at 15.10 NOK ($2.44 USD). A small tin of sardines is budget traveler food at 22.50 NOK ($3.64 USD).

Three red bell peppers 8.90 NOK ($1.45 USD). A pound of tomatoes was about the same price, so there are some reasonable food items. A stalk of broccoli and a head of cauliflower were about 12NOK ($2.00 USD). Grocery store vegetables are affordable and comparably priced to many places in the USA. Vegetarian diets are a great cost saver in Norway.

Norway vegies

Some travelers on a European vacation toss the budget and simply lay down the credit card for the restaurant bill when it comes to meal times.

Looks like I’ll be tossing the salad in Norway when it comes to my meal times beyond the breakfast provided by the hotels.

Low Cost Alternatives to Norway

My next Norway trip planning post will look at low cost flights from Norway to other places in Europe. I am amazed at the number of cities I can fly to from Oslo for under $100 round trip. My trip to Norway may actually end up taking me to another country or countries like Sweden or Switzerland, Czech Republic or Hungary, Greece or Turkey, Latvia and Estonia.

Low cost flights on Air Baltic, Wizz, RyanAir and Norwegian Air from Oslo to other airports around Europe open up many possibilities. The next question is how much do these low cost carriers really cost and what about the extra fees for checked bags and other airline expenses?

I’ll explore some of the many options for travel from Oslo for under $100 one way and the cost for checked bags among different low cost carrier airlines. I’d like to think I could travel with only one carry-on, but that might be difficult if I am staying north of the Arctic Circle in Norway for part of my trip and relaxing on the Mediterranean beach during the same two-week trip.

Related Loyalty Traveler post: Hunger in Oslo. Prices? What Prices! (March 13, 2013)


Ric Garrido of Monterey, California is writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler.

Loyalty Traveler shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests. Check out current hotel loyalty program offers across all the major chains in Loyalty Traveler’s monthly hotel promotions guide.

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About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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  1. While we only had that one meal out in Oslo, we did have several meals in Trysil and overall concluded that food by itself isn’t much different than say NYC. However, the alcohol was almost universally pretty pricey. We had pizza/pastas a couple nights in Trysil that wasn’t award winning, but was certainly affordable. Would have to look up the exact amount but meals for two without drinks were more in the $50 – $60 range.

    As you say, having breakfast included at most places was very helpful indeed. Not to hard to have a snack/light lunch and then just have one real meal out of pocket per day if the food budget is limited.

  2. many stores like 7 Eleven have reasonably priced take away. And some of it is actually really good local flavor.

  3. Welcome to my World and prices. The Norwegian’s go to Sweden to shop (ie: buy beer), the Swedes to Denmark and the Danish go to Germany. The German’s no doubt go to Poland.

    If you have time try and fit in a flight to Svalbard (LYR), Norwegian and SAS fly there, it’s about as far North as you go without actually going to the North Pole PLUS there’s the Radisson Blu Polar Hotel.

    To take full advantage of the european LCC’s you need to make you booking as far in advance as possible and don’t book premium services (prio boarding, hold luggage, go over the cabin luggage size etc).

  4. There sure can be sticker shock when looking at food prices in Norway. However, we spent 5 days checking out the sites around Oslo back in January (I have posts about each day on my blog) and felt we did pretty well with food.

    Some things we did:
    – Stopped at the supermarket usually 2 times per day- just about every day. We didnt cook but we did buy really tasty breads, croissants, pizzas and other sorts of pre-made items. This covered our breakfast, most lunches and snacks.
    – Norway’s water is great so we filled our water bottles at our hotel every day.
    – If you want to a really good and reasonably priced seafood meal (I think they are only open for lunch), check out Fiskeriet.
    -The Malthallen Food Hall is top notch and prices are very fair.
    – Lots of good restaurants around Grunerlokka. I think we spent around $65 for 3 of us plus we shared 1 beer.

    We enjoyed Oslo much more than we had thought we would and hope to go back to Norway one of these days to see more of the country.

  5. My wife still loves to embarrass me telling people the story about the time we stayed one week in the Caribbean and I packed an entire suitcase of food. That was back in the days before outrageous checked bag fees.

    @Andy – Poland is seriously on my mind as a getaway from Norway. Poland is the only country my wife has been to that I have not also visited. Cheap beer is a real advantage and there are several cities in Poland under $50 one way from Oslo.

  6. For alcohol, take advantage of the very generous duty free allowances on arrival. The biggest alcohol shop in Norway is at Oslo airport.

  7. I found the best way to cope with Norwegian prices was to eat and drink as I normally would whilst on vacation. Sure it’s expensive, but constantly comparing prices to ‘home’ will just spoil the trip.

    +1 for Longyearbyen, it’s and amazing place. You can transfer Amex Membership Rewards to SAS, so a round trip OSL-LYR is just 10k miles.

  8. You absolutely MUST go to the Lofoten Islands off the coast in Northern Norway. It is the most beautiful place I have ever been with white sandy beaches, green towering moutains, red Norwegian cottages everywhere, sheep running around, and freezing cold clear aqua water. Very idyllic. Its insanely expensive though. Norwegians often eat “fast food” such as hotdogs and cheaper foods from gas stations such as Statoil.

  9. @Ric Cruising may be the best deal to travel comfortably and inexpensively in Norway. Last year I booked two back-to-back cruises on Celebrity Infinity at less than $100 per person per day that took us to Norway, Iceland and Faroes. Of course food is included. The bonus is seeing fjords from sea.

  10. @Andy @Ric If you go to Poland – which is seriously under the mass-tourist’s radar – the relation between Polish-US food prices will be similar to US-Norwegian, i.e., 1:2 or less, but in the more pleasant direction. There are first Michelin starred restaurants in Warsaw with prix fixe menus well below $100 but you have to book a month in advance. The hotels in Warsaw are typically so inexpensive (Hilton, Radisson Blu, Westin) that I rarely use points. Krakow has delightful food and is amazingly affordable.

  11. @StacyShine – Lofoten Islands are the place that seemed most attractive for me and my interests from Norway research I did in March.

  12. Go to the Baltic’s. There basically Scandinavia at a fraction of the cost

  13. I really enjoyed my week in Riga, Latvia years ago. I think you would enjoy the sights there.

  14. I am a Norwegian who has spent the last 18 years abroad and moved back last year. Yes, prices are high when comparing to other countries, but when you compare prices to average Norwegian salaries the Norwegians have to work less hours than most to cover their weekly grocery needs (on average 1 hour 45 minutes). Of course, that is not much use when not living here… Norwegian hotels are cheap compared to many European countries, supermarket food will stretch your budget further. You will even afford a beer or two. Enjoy Norway!

  15. Try to look for the Clarion Collection hotels as these also have evening buffet included.

    Should be bookable using Choice points.

  16. I would suggest packing at least some food. Granola bars, almonds, chocolate bars for a treat.
    Even pretzels if you have room. Also tuna fish if you are willing to also pack a fork and.light can opener, or get a few that can be opened without one. At least you wouldn’t be reliant on the local economy for every morsel !

  17. Thanks everyone for all the tips and suggestions.

    I considered Svalbard, but that seems too isolated for me. I like long walks alone and my understanding from what I read is a gun is required for polar bear protection or a gun toting escort. Gun culture is not my culture. I met a woman recently going to Svalbard for a photography class this summer. Sounds great. I could use a wildlife photography class.

    Yesterday, I was taking photos of sea otters less than 30 feet away. I did not capture the clarity I desired.

    @Victor – Duty free alcohol is a good option for many people. I do not drink distilled alcohol. I enjoy beer and I occasionally drink wine.

    When I stayed in Sweden for two weeks back in the 1990s, I drank 2.8% beer from the supermarket which was the highest alcohol content they sold in the grocery stores. That was okay.

    On my second to last night in Stockholm, I met a university student who took me to the college pub where drinks were reasonably priced. Students bought me many full strength beers. One of the few things I recall is a student asking me what kind of English I speak. I told him California American English.

    @21h21j – Getting sick is about the only thing that has spoiled any of my trips. I am a low-stress traveler. Eating normally for me is going to the grocery store and buying good food at competitive prices. That is the same strategy anywhere. I rarely eat at restaurants, except for social functions and travel conferences.

    @chrisljo – I have seen Clarion hotels with both breakfast and evening meal included. Looks like a good deal.

    Nick & Mike – The Baltics have been on my mind. Places I have not been and much easier to travel to than Russia. I have a feeling my Norway trip itinerary will include one or more of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

    I don’t want to spend too much time moving around.

    @Marek – No doubt that cruises can be far less expensive than ground travel. Far more travelers cruise the Norwegian fjords than actually visit Norway by land is something I read. To me cruising is like watching TV. I need my feet on the ground and walking around. Too many people on cruise ships for my liking.

    High probability I will travel by ferry for a couple of destinations along the Norway coast.

    @Kate – I always travel with a can opener since I usually shop at grocery stores for most of my meals.

  18. The only time I’ve ever taken a breathalyzer test was on a Sunday morning drive from Sweden to Norway. It was a random traffic checkpoint. Given the price of liquor in these countries, the odds that I would be drunk on a Sunday morning was about a million to one.

    I do find Scandinavian supermarket prices to be considerably more expensive than elsewhere in Europe. I would think food prices in Norway are probably 4x those of Poland. It’s a shame because Scandinavian destinations are, at best, “average” for Europe for a tourist, but the prices are so much higher. In general, it’s best to visit more affordable countries. It is much easier to have a good time in Poland than Norway.

  19. Don’t go to Switzerland for a cheaper alternative. Switzerland is very, very expensive. Let me repeat, very expensive.

  20. Careful with “toss the salad.” It’s not a pleasant expression if you look it up.

  21. stvr – LOL, now that is a meaning I did not know for the expression ‘toss salad’.

    As someone who studied food epidemiology, bacteriology and virology in university, I know where my tongue will never venture when feeding my appetite.

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